Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation Day- More Celebration

October 31st is Reformation Day! We celebrate today the day Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of his church in Wittenburg inviting debate on grace and faith against the Pope's indulgences.

Here's a picture of the Wittenburg Castle Church where Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five theses (Hat Tip: Charismatica) along with a link to the complete text of this important Theological and historical document.

Celebrate Reformation Day

As you celebrate (or don't celebrate) Halloween, don't forget that October 31 is also Reformation Day! David Mathis at "Desiring God" Blog reminds us at Luther's First Thesis and Last Words :: Desiring God

491 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed in 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

He wanted to debate the sale of indulgences with his fellow university professors. So he wrote in Latin.

But a nameless visionary translated the theses into German, carried them to the printing press, and enabled their dispersion far and wide. Luther ended up with more than he bargained for, but he proved to be no coward in defending the discoveries he was making in Scripture.

First Thesis

The truth of Luther’s first thesis would reverberate throughout his lifetime, even finding expression in his last words.
His first thesis reads,

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.

All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.

Last Words

Almost 30 years later, on February 16, 1546, Luther’s last words, written on a piece of scrap paper, echoed the theme of his first thesis:

We are beggars! This is true.

From first thesis to last words, Luther lived at the foot of the cross, where our rebellious condition meets with the beauty of God’s lavish grace in the gospel of his Son—a gospel deep enough to cover all the little and massive flaws of a beggar like

Luther and beggars like us.

Justification in Two Courts

“There are two ‘courts’ we must deal with: the court of God in Heaven and the court of conscience in our souls. When we first trust in Christ for salvation, God’s court is forever satisfied. Never again will a charge of guilt be brought against us in Heaven. Our consciences, however, are continually pronouncing us guilty. That is the function of conscience. Therefore, we must by faith bring the verdict of conscience into line with the verdict of Heaven. We do this by agreeing with our conscience about our guilt, but then reminding it that our guilt has already been borne by Christ.”

- Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs, Co: NavPress, 1994), 54.
Hat Tip: The Two ‘Courts’ « Of First Importance

Scholarly Pastors

Can I give a big shout out and Amen to this opinion expressed by Gerald Hiestand at "Straight Up" Pastor? Scholar? Why Choose?

Athanasius, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Edwards—men whose enduring legacies have shaped the landscape of contemporary theological thought. Their reflection was deep, their intellect profound, their passion remarkable, and their influence vast. And these great thinkers not only impacted the intellectuals of their day, but were followed and admired by the laity as well. What was it about these men that established them as such significant theologians? What made them so effective in sparking revival, bolstering faith, and reforming the Church?

Though diverse in their theologies, all of these men shared a common and significant mark of distinction—they were churchmen. They were bishops and preachers, pastors and founders of denominations, shepherd of souls. Though not all of them were formally pastors in the sense we understand today, their social, theological, and intellectual life was inseparably woven into the fabric of parish ministry. They were practitioners as much as theologians. Living among the people for whom they wrote and thought, the press and weight of parish life drove the questions that their theology sought to answer. And they were loved by their people because they resided among them, and because the questions that panged the heart of their parishioners, panged also their own. They were churchmen first, and theologians second, and the former gave birth to the latter.

The legacy of such great men teaches us the value of uniting the role of pastor with that of theologian; yet a resounding absence of such a union marks the church today. Our most significant theologians now reside almost exclusively in the academy. To be sure, the rise of the academy requires thoughtful academic theologians who live and move in that environment. But is it best that virtually all of our theologians have moved to the academy? There is a need for a renaissance of the pastor-theologian, pastors who endeavor to do theology from the pastor’s study and not solely the professor’s lectern. Not every pastor is called to a life of scholarship. Nor is every professor called to the pastorate. But many young people today feel the pull between a life of scholarship and the life of the church. It is to our detriment if we force such individuals to choose between these two callings.

The application for this short reflection is simple: if you find yourself to be that unique sort of person who longs to produce thoughtful scholarship on the one hand, and yet feels called into pastoral ministry on the other, don’t choose between the two. Bring these two passions together. The evangelical academy needs you in the church, producing scholarship that speaks immediately and directly to ecclesial concerns. After all, the most significant task of the evangelical divinity school is training future pastors; who better to write theology for training pastors than pastor-scholars?

I agree. Consider yourself Amened!

Wisdom for Email

Zach Nielsen had a post up this week with a list of ten good rules for e-mail developed at his church. The rules are:
1. Don't confront people over email.
2. Use email to work on your grammar.
3. Work to have a balance between email and personal contact.
4. Be professional over email.
5. Use subject lines.
6. Don't multi-task too much with email.
7. Don't email your spouse a love letter, or better yet, anything to anybody that is emotionally meaningful.
8. Hesitate before you hit reply all.
9. Don't forward cheesy emails with winged angels and dancing bears.
10. Learn people's style.
He says a lot more than just a list of rules. Well worth reading and pondering (especially number 9!).

See: Take Your Vitamin Z: Wisdom for Email

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Election Prayer

A prayer by John A. Hardon, a Jesuit priest (HT: WDTPRS?):

“Lord Jesus Christ, You told us to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. Enlighten the minds of our people [in] America. May we choose a President of the United States, and other government officials, according to Your Divine Will. Give our citizens the courage to choose leaders of our nation who respect the sanctity of unborn human life, the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of marital relations, the sanctity of the family, and the sanctity of the aging. Grant us the wisdom to give You, what belongs to You, our God. If we do this, as a nation, we are confident You will give us an abundance of Your blessings through our elected leaders. Amen.”

The Journeyman says Amen!

Hat Tip: The Daily Scroll

Jesus Christ is Stronger!

From Straight Up comes this great and timely reminder: Jesus is stronger than our problems! I needed to hear this truth this week- Thanks Brother for the good word!

Jesus Christ is stronger!

Stronger than my fears about the future or my shame over a past than cannot be altered though I wish so much I could do some things differently.

Stronger than my tired prayers with well worn phrases and weary pleas.

Stronger than my need to know now, and have the trial terminated.

Stronger than the enemy of my soul who would discourage me with my own failings and disillusion me with the faults of others.

I had an experience with God last week. A powerful one. I was getting ready to address the convocation at Liberty University. I was on the platform in front of more than 10,000 students and parents. Travis Doucette, one of our young Harvest worship leaders, led a song, a worship chorus from Hillsong I had never heard before. It’s called Stronger. It took me apart. Such a simple truth—Jesus Christ is Stronger. “Stronger than what,” you ask? Stronger than whatever would cause you doubt or discouragement today. I listened to the song again this morning alone in my office at home. The words filled my soul and forced my hands into the air in heartfelt worship. Tears fell on my blotter, as a broad smile filled my face. Jesus Christ is stronger! YES, He is!!

Parable of The Prodigal God

The following quote comes form Tim Chailles' review of Tim Keller's new book:The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller at the Discerning Reader

Traditionally, readings of the parable of the Prodigal Son have focused on the younger son and is reconciliation with his father. We learn from such readings that God is willing to receive all those who wander from him. Yet too often we overlook that third character --the older brother. Were the story only about the father and the younger son we would expect that the Pharisees, among those who first heard Jesus tell this parable, would react with joy. Yet we know from Scripture that they walked away in disgust and disbelief. Why? Because the parable pointed to them as examples of the older son. As Keller says, Jesus' purpose in this parable "was not to warm our hearts, but to shatter our categories."

He begins by ensuring the reader has a sense of Jesus' original audience as he taught this parable. There were two groups near Jesus at the time. The first was tax collectors and sinners while the second was composed of Pharisees and teachers of the law. The tax collectors and sinners correspond to the younger brother--people who left the traditional morality of their families and social groups and engaged in what others would consider wild living. The religious leaders, on the other hand, correspond to the older brother, representing the moral and obedient who have never turned from the traditions of their culture and religion. Where the first group seek God through some kind of self-discovery, the second group seeks him through a type of moral conformity. Jesus' message is that both of these approaches are wrong and in this parable he offers his radical alternative. "There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord," says Keller. "One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good."

While Keller focuses attention on both of the brothers, he gives more time to the elder brother. He wants the reader to know that a self-imposed standard of morality is not the same as truly knowing and following Christ. He wants those who are outwardly religious to search their hearts to see if there is an inner surrender that goes along with the outward conformity. He challenges Christians with the fact that churches tend to be havens for the older brother kind of believer. "Jesus' teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners doesn't have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren't appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we'd like to think."

Okay, I need to read this book. Someone get me an Amazon gift card for Christmas already so I can.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trick or Treat

Hat Tip:

To the Cross I Look...

There's another song that I have been meditating on a lot the past few weeks- humming the tune to myself, repeating the words over and over in my mind. The Song is Sweetly Broken by Jeremy Riddle:

To the cross I look,
to the cross I cling
Of its suffering I do drink
Of its work I do sing

For on it my Savior
both bruised and crushed
Showed that God is love
And God is just

At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken,
wholly surrendered

What a priceless gift,
undeserved life
Have I been given
Through Christ crucified

You’ve called me out of death
You’ve called me into life
And I was under Your wrath
Now through the cross I’m reconciled

In awe of the cross I must confess
How wondrous Your redeeming love and
How great is Your faithfulness

The Cross Done for Us and by Us

"Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, 'only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross', wrote Canon Peter Green, 'may claim his share in its grace.'"--John Stott, The Cross of Christ, page 60

Hat Tip: (Josh Harris)

Pro-life and Pro-Obama? - Not Possible

From Denny Burk's blog post Pro-life and Pro-Obama? Hardly quoting from George Weigel in Newsweek.

I have already referred readers to Robert George’s compelling essay arguing that Obama is the most pro-abortion candidate for president in history. But I would also like to bring to your attention George Weigel’s piece in a recent Newsweek column that decisively overturns each of the three points above.

‘Barack Obama has an unalloyed record of support for abortion on demand. Moreover, he seems to understand Roe vs. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions as having defined abortion as a fundamental liberty right essential for women’s equality, meaning that government must guarantee access to abortion in law and by financial assistance—a moral judgment and a policy prescription the pro-life Catholic Obama boosters say they reject.

‘According to his own Web site, Obama supports the federal Freedom of Choice Act [FOCA], which would eliminate all state and federal regulation of abortion (such as informed consent and parental notification in the case of minors seeking an abortion); these regulations have demonstrably reduced the absolute number of abortions in the jurisdictions in which they are in effect. FOCA would also eliminate, by federal statute, state laws providing “conscience clause” protection for pro-life doctors who decline to provide abortions. Obama (along with the Democratic Party platform) supports federal funding for abortion, opposes the Hyde amendment (which restricts the use of taxpayer monies for abortion) and has pledged to repeal the “Mexico City policy” (initiated by Ronald Reagan and reinstated by George W. Bush, which bans federal foreign-aid funding for organizations that perform and promote abortion as a means of family planning). According to the pro-choice Web site, Obama also opposes continued federal funding for crisis pregnancy centers.

‘As Roe vs. Wade does indeed deny the protection of the laws to the unborn, no one can, with any moral or logical consistence, claim to support both Roe vs. Wade and the common good. It’s one or the other.’

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Will Arise and Go to Jesus...

Been listening a lot to Come Ye Sinners by Todd Agnew from the Grace Like Rain album. Think on these words:

Come ye sinners, poor and needy
Weak and wounded, sick and sore
Jesus ready stands to save you
Full of pity, love, and power

Come ye thirsty, come and welcome
God's free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance
Every grace that brings you nigh

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

Come ye weary, heavy-laden
Lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry until you're better
You will never come at all

I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh, there are ten thousand charms

(Yes, I know the words come from an old hymn by J. Hart. Still really good words, and very meaningful to me right now)

Financial Candy

The Basic Flaw in All the Polls.

In a post by the wise and thoughtful Anchoress entitled Press coverage negative on McCain? comes this very illuminating statement discussing studies of media biases:

All of the studies will be flawed, because none of them take into account the very simple fact that when the press refuses to report stories that may negatively impact their candidate, they are starting from a place of such profound dishonesty that every study, every poll will be dishonest, as well.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Wrong Righteousness

“Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God; your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can be found only in Jesus Christ.”

- Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 22.

Hat tip: The Wrong Righteousness « Of First Importance
(I really love this website- A daily dose of the Gospel of the Cross)

Jesus Explains the Cross

From Justin Chlders at CROSS-eyed comes this excellent exposition of John 12:20-36 entitled Jesus Explains the Cross. In case you have not noticed, I'm clinging to the message of Christ's work on the Cross and the atonement lately. You can expect me to blog on just about anything I find on those subjects.

John 12:20-36 is an amazing passage. In this passage, we have Jesus’ own commentary on His approaching death. Here we have the Savior’s most clear teaching on the meaning of the cross.

This passage is so important because it fills up the events of the Cross with meaning. John 18 and 19 will deal with what happened at the Cross. This passage details why it happened.

Charles Spurgeon once offered this counsel to us: “Abide hard by the cross and search the mystery of His wounds.”

This passage reveals the mystery of the Savior’s wounds.

-The Cross was sovereignly determined by God (v. 23 - "the hour").
-The Cross reveals the glory of Jesus (v. 23).
-The Cross accomplished its intended effects (v. 24, 31-32).
-The Cross is to mark the Christian life (v. 25-26).
-The Cross was embraced by Jesus (v. 27).
-The Cross reflects Jesus’ ultimate passion (v. 27-28).
-The Cross was approved by the Father (v. 28).
-The Cross condemned the world (v. 31).
-The Cross defeated Satan (v. 31).

-The Cross secures and ensures our salvation (v. 32-33).

DA Carson said, “I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”

Shallow Theology

The IMonk posted at The Review 90% of Evangelicals Won’t Write, quoting from Newsweek's review of Victoria Osteen's new book. Hearing stuff like this is why I have not and will not bother with reading Joel or Victoria Osteen's books.

Newsweek reviews Victoria Osteen’s new book. Thank God for Newsweek’s willingness to say what 90% of evangelicals won’t say.

With that story, Victoria unconsciously articulates the problem so many outsiders have with Joel and, by extension, with her. Joel Osteen is one of the most popular pastors in the country, but both he and Victoria seem, from the outside at least, to be spiritual midgets. More than 40,000 people come to hear them preach each week in a sanctuary that used to be the home of the Houston Rockets. Millions more watch them on television. Joel’s books are best sellers, and Victoria’s new one, though arriving in stores this week, is already high on Amazon’s spiritual book list. But the theology driving all this success is thin. Over and over, in sermons, books and television interviews, the Osteens repeat their most firmly held beliefs. If you pray to Jesus, you’ll get what you want.

Socialism Explained and Illustrated

Since every body's talking about whether Senator Obama's "Share the wealth" is socialism or not, I offer this clear example of what the term means.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Are Elders and Pastors the Same Thing in the NT?

If you are interested in the subject of "Five-Fold Ministry" and/or church government by Elders check out this post by Andrew Faris at Christians in Context: Are Elders and Pastors the Same Thing in the NT? it possible that all elders are pastors but not all pastors are elders? I think so, and here is why:

1. Pastors are never told to do the work of elders in the NT- the examples Berding gives necessarily point towards elders doing pastoral work, but not necessarily the other way. So the position is possible.

2. Besides generally exemplary character, the Pastoral Epistles (esp. 1 Tim. 3) give two major requirements for being an elder: having a good home and being able to teach. 1 Tim. 5:17 [Open in Libronix (if available)] seems to indicate that some elders did not, in fact, teach. Still, this was likely a major role. It is less clear that "pastoring" necessarily includes teaching. But what about Eph. 4, you ask? Keep reading!

3. This corresponds well with the oft-noted hendiadys in Eph. 4: pastor-teacher is two parts of the same position. If my thesis here is correct, then "pastor-teacher" is basically another way of saying "elder" in Ephesians. So why not just say elder? Is it so far-fetched to think that perhaps some people were doing only one part of those roles, such that while mostly elders would be in mind, God also equips His people by providing leaders who labor primarily (though not necessarily exclusively) in only one of those ministry roles? That is, perhaps there are more leaders than just elders, and Paul wanted to include an at least slightly broader range of equippers in his ministry list in Eph. 4.

4. This makes practical sense. How many people in your church can you name who shepherd other people? Probably more than just the elder(s). But how many consistently teach, or even have teaching as a major part of their job description? Probably mostly just the elder(s). That is probably in part because no single or small group of elders can pastor an entire congregation. Healthy congregations have more functional leaders than just those who are official leaders. But they tend not to have too many teachers, which seems reasonable enough.

Andrew also discusses the implications of this position for the "women in ministry" controversy.

Deep Conversion: At The Cross.

John Schroeder at Blogotional: To The Cross. posted the following, quoting from Russ Smith's review of Andrew Purvis' The Crucifixion of Ministry: Surrendering Our Ambitions to the Service of Christ.

Like a great Jazz artist, Purves weaves key themes through the text: the Mystic Union with Christ (that when we are His, we're united with him...thus his righteousness is exchanged for our rags, and vice versa) and the Vicarious Ministry of Jesus Christ (that even now he reigns, he continues to serve as the High Priest in the Heavenlies, and He offers His worship to the Father). Thus everything important is being done.

None of these are new to me....cognitively I was aware of them and their implications long ago. However Purves shows some great wisdom in making us aware that intellectually knowing a truth is not the same as living into it: “More elusive is the deep conversion of mind, will and heart where we know the inner reality of being laid hold of by Christ in the Spirit, so we share in his active obedience to, communion with and mission from the Father. From my observation it requires the pains of ministry in midcareer to prepare a person for the radical transformation of ‘I, yet not I, but Christ.’”(111)

From my vantage point, I see pastors who talk about the transformational power of Christ, but live as practical atheists....little prayer beyond the obligitory few sentences at the start of a committee meeting. Little brokenheartedness before the Lord. Sure we can pray, but then let's get on to something practical for Pete's sake. As though Jesus' work wouldn't get done without them. And there's a vast moneymaking industry of conferences, publishing houses, gurus, and seminars designed to give you the magic keys to effective ministry. I suggest that none of the people involved in this industry would deny the truths that Purves lays out. Yet in the room are palpable and false excitements that betray where the treasure is buried.

Thoughts worth meditating on, and maybe a book worth reading.

30 Years - Goes By Quick

Went to my 30th College Reunion Saturday. Where did all those fat, old and gray people come from?

I did not fit in at all (snicker).

Honestly, I met up with many men and women I knew 30 years ago who have gone on to productive and useful lives as pastors and missionaries, physicians and business executives, as well as raising families of children who will be blessings to all who know them. We also discussed a classmate who was unable to be present who will very likely be elected to Congress next week. One family has survived a stroke and a tornado. Another friend lost his mother to cancer that very morning.

Life goes on, and God is always sovereign and in control. May His name be praised.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Post-Charismatic Journey

At "Kingdom Grace" this week I read an interesting review of Strange Fire, Holy Fire, a book by Michael Klassen.
This book by Michael Klassen is a well-written and interesting addition to the post-charismatic library. With a fair combination of critique and validation, the author expresses the desire to bring balance and maturity to both the beliefs and practices of charismatics.
Michael presents topics relevant to the charismatic movement in easy to digest chapters. While not an indepth study of the issues, the chapters provide enough points of background and scripture to begin the process of reflection and discussion for those interested in examining their charismatic practices.

Has any one out there read this book? How about the similar book Post-Charismatic by Robin McAlpine?

If you have read these books please leave some comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The First Order of Business Is to Know the Gospel

From Timmy Brister at The First Order of Business Is to Know the Gospel « Provocations & Pantings, quoting Thabiti Anywabile, comes this great summary of The Gospel:
“The first order of business is to know the gospel . . .

The gospel or good news of Jesus Christ is that God the Father, who is holy and righteous in all his ways, is angry with sinners and will punish sin. Man, who disobeys the rule of God, is alienated from the love of God and is in danger of an eternal and agonizing condemnation at the hands of God. But God, who is also rich in mercy, because of his great love, sent his eternal Son born by the Virgin Mary, to die as a ransom and a substitute for the sins of rebellious people. And now, through the perfect obedience of the Son of God and his willing death on the cross as a payment for our sins, all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, following him as Savior and Lord, will be saved from the wrath of God to come, be declared just in his sight, have eternal life, and receive the Spirit of God as a foretaste of the glories of heaven with God himself.”

Nature Declares His Glory - Great Orion Nebulae

The picture above comes from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day APOD: 2008 October 23 - Great Orion Nebulae

Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulae in the sky. The star forming region's glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are on the right in this sharp and colorful two frame mosaic that includes the smaller nebula M43 near center and dusty, bluish reflection nebulae NGC 1977 and friends on the left. Located at the edge of an otherwise invisible giant molecular cloud complex, these eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of this galactic neighborhood's wealth of interstellar material. Within the well-studied stellar nursery, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant solar systems. The gorgeous skyscape spans nearly two degrees or about 45 light-years at the Orion Nebula's estimated distance of 1,500 light-years

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 ESV)

Civics 101

Think you understand exactly how we elect our president. Check out your level of election knowledge at Civics 101: How the U.S.A. elects its President - WELT ONLINE

The most common false assumption about the President of the United States is that he is directly elected through a popular vote of the people. It’s easy to fall into this trap, given the appealing simplicity of such a democratic method.

In reality, the President is elected through a one-of-a-kind, indirect process, which places the emphasis on the individual state elections. The electoral system written in the Constitution of the United States was designed to preserve the autonomy and political power of the states, and this federal character of the country is preserved in the Electoral College system.

How does the Electoral College function?

American voters do not cast their ballot for President at the federal level. Rather, the votes are counted at the local level and then submitted to the electoral commissions of the states. Each state has a certain number of electors, equal to the number of U.S. representatives from that state, plus the two senators. The District of Columbia also has a number of electors equal to that of the smallest state, currently three, thanks to the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1961 (before that, residents of the District could not vote for President). The state with the largest number of electors is California, which has 55. In total, there are currently 538
electors. A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes to become President.

Hat Tip:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Double Standard on Hate Speech

Hat Tip:

The Music of Your Youth

Interesting discussion on the connections between memory and music at Discussion: Re-Evaluating the Music of Your Youth « Country Universe, quoting from the NY Times Domestic Disturbances.

It’s a funny thing I’ve noticed lately, listening to the “classic rock” stations that are now — unbelievably — broadcasting the soundtrack of my life: bad music sounds so good once it becomes the music of your youth. All the songs you hated, all the bands you mocked, all the pop clich├ęs you spurned because you were so much cooler than all that now sound so soulful, so very real.
I listened to some cheesy stuff in the seventies that sound good to me now. I also listened to some great stuff in the seventies that has stood the test of time and still sounds great. My personal theory is that everyone thinks the music from their high school years was the best pop music of all time.

What will the kids of today think of today's music thirty years from now? Probably the same as my generation thinks if the music from our youth.

How about you?

How Not to Help the Poor

From Between Two Worlds: How Not to Help the Poor, quoting Anthony Bradley:

If there's one lesson from the "war on poverty" programs the US government instituted in the 1970s it is that government programs were the primary source of the destruction of the black family and the erosion of the dignity of the black men in particular in low-income urban areas. Good intentions ain't enough. The federal programs pushed out the church and destroyed many black communities. It took about 20 years to see the effects of well-intended but stupid government programs. The crazy notion that "we just need to get the right government program" is fantasy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Longing for Final Deliverance

“Every time you acknowledge your sin, you long for Jesus too. But you’re not longing for the final sacrifice, because it’s already been made. No, you and I long for final deliverance. We long for that moment when we’ll be taken to the place where sin will be no more. We long to see Jesus, to be with him, and to be like him. Isn’t it comforting to know that that final deliverance has been written into the story as well? It is our guaranteed future. And so we long with hope.”

- Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow (Wheaton, IL.: Crossway Books, 2008), 90.

Hat Tip: Longing for final deliverance « Of First Importance

The Undecided Voter


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What God has Done

Darryl Dash has posted a good summary of the Gospel at The Gospel is about what God has done

The Gospel is about what God has accomplished through the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is big news. It involves rescue from judgment for sin and a restored relationship with God, and his restoration of creation.

The Gospel is good news about what God has done, never about what we must do or have done. It's good news, not good advice.

The Gospel is:

* good news for the poor and victims of injustice because God (not us) has acted
* about individual salvation and the restoration of the cosmos
* about individual salvation and the kingdom (reign) of God

The Gospel is not:

* what we do to promote justice
* about loving God or loving our neighbors, because this is both Law and a right response to the Gospel (what we do), but it is not the Gospel (what God has done)

Our efforts to promote justice, obey God, and love others are necessary implications of the Gospel, but they are not the Gospel itself. It is wrong to ignore the implications; it is also wrong to confuse the them with the Gospel.

God is uniting all that's been torn apart in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). That is Gospel. We work to unite what's broken around us. That's not Gospel; that is our response to the Gospel.

The Gospel is all about what God has done, not what we are doing.
Couldn't have said it better. The Gospel is about Jesus, and what He has done for us. So now I (we) need to say this to to all those who need to hear it, because it really is good news!

The Value of Jesus

Speaking of the Gospel being all about Jesus (see post below), Justin at the blog called "Cross-Eyed" (clever name) summarizes The Value of Jesus from the first eleven chapters of the Gospel of John.

Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure in the universe. Because…
Jesus is God the Son.
Jesus created all things.
Jesus makes the Father known.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus it the promised Messiah.
Jesus is the king of Israel.
Jesus is completely pure, blameless, sinless.
Jesus has power over nature.
Jesus is the true temple.
Jesus has been given all things by the Father.
Jesus is the living water.
Jesus is the Savior of the world.
Jesus heals the blind, lame, and paralyzed.
Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.
Jesus it the obedient Son, fulfilling the Father’s plan perfectly.
Jesus has authority to give life to whoever He wants.
Jesus has authority to execute judgment.
Jesus is the content of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Jesus walks on water.
Jesus is the bread of life.
Jesus will never cast out those who come to Him.
Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.
Jesus gives the Spirit.
Jesus is the light of the world.
Jesus is the powerful “I Am.”
Jesus is the Son of Man.
Jesus opens the eyes of the physically and spiritually blind.
Jesus is the door of salvation.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life willingly for His sheep.
Jesus is one with the Father.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
Jesus raises the dead.

Thus, Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure in the universe.
It's all about Jesus.

Monday, October 20, 2008

All About Jesus

I was reading again this weekend the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Have you ever noticed that when God the Father said "This is My Beloved Son, Listen to Him," He was speaking in the presence of Moses (representing the Law), Elijah (representing the Prophets) and the disciples (representing the New Testament)? All of Scripture (represented by these three groups) listens to Jesus, and all of Scripture speaks of Jesus, because all of Scripture is about Jesus.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)

It's all about Jesus.

Shouldn't we talk about Him more?

Another Perspective on The Shack

I've read lots of reviews and comments on William Young's The Shack, both positive and negative. From my usual sources the reviews are mostly negative. However, Gerald Hiestand at "Straight Up" has a perspective that I have not heard anywhere else - the "anti-power" motif. See -Straight Up » William Young’s The Shack
Young’s decision to portray God in mostly feminine categories has relevance to a wider “anti-power” motif woven throughout the book. Young, in casting God in female terms, attempts to distance God from a sense of tyranny and dominance—a sense more often associated with males than females. Young’s agenda is not unique. Those toward the theological left (and our postmodern milieu in general) tend to be suspicious of power, viewing it as oppressive and brutalizing. The emergence of egalitarianism within the church and home, and the movement toward decentralized church leadership structures are symptomatic of this shift. Hierarchy, we are often told, leads to oppression. At one point in the book, Mac asks God which of the three members of the Trinity is in charge of the others. The three are aghast at the thought. “What you are seeing here,” the Holy Spirit informs him, “is a relationship without any overlay of power…Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong uses to make others conform to what they want.” Power, Young argues at various points, is inherently corrupting and oppressive.

The net result is a God who rejects—indeed is repulsed by—the use of power. (In one scene God picks up a gun between two fingers, holding it at arms lengths as though it were a dead mouse). Young’s God never coerces, never forces; He believes the best in everyone, is enduringly patient, and invincibly good-natured. For Young, love cannot be love if it is not freely offered and freely received. Power equals dominance, and if God dominates us he cannot love us, nor can we freely love him.

There are two fundamental difficulties I have with Young’s “anti-power” motif. First, Young’s portrayal of God is out of step with much of the way God is portrayed in Scripture. It’s difficult to square Young’s pacifistic Trinitarian portrayal with the God of Genesis 6, the Christ of Revelation 19, and the Holy Spirit of Acts 5. And it’s at this point that Young’s theodicy falls short. The Scripture doesn’t allow us to distance God from violence and coercion. The deeper question of theodicy is not simply how a good God can allow death and destruction, but how a good God can cause death and destruction. Young’s book assumes the happiness of humanity is the highest good. The Bible does not affirm this. Simply put, God is not “for” everyone to the same degree, or in the same way. (Aquinas called this the “principle of predilection—the idea that “no created being would be better than another unless it were loved more by God.”) Those committed to the biblical narrative must wrestle with the (unsettling) reality of a God who does not love everyone equally, and who has personally brought about the death of women and children. On this question, Young’s book is silent.

Secondly, Young’s conflation of power and abuse is not accurate. The former does not automatically equate to the latter. The answer to the abuse of power is not the elimination of power, but rather the proper use of power. God is unquestionably a God of power. Young would agree with this, I’m sure, but Young seems to chafe against any idea that God would actually use his power to bring about his ends. But God does, and often. Further, the love of God is only as meaningful as the power that animates it. A God neutered of power is a God who lacks the capacity to love. Or again, the warmth of God’s imminence is only as meaningful as the height of his transcendence. Young’s portrayal of God, unlike the Biblical God of the whirlwind, lacks any sense of transcendence.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Word and Spirit

Tommy Brister at "Provocations and Pantings" has posted a good Bible Study from The Book of Acts on Word and Spirit in the Early Church. His conclusion is:

When it comes to understanding what God did in the early church after Pentecost, the relationship of Word and Spirit lies at the heart of God’s mission being accomplished through His church. Therefore, church planting efforts today would do well to consider what role or to what degree the Word of God and the Spirit of God govern and guide their efforts. We live in a day where man can mimic and manufacture church by engineering, marketing, and selling the goods and services that people need, want, or desire. However, the evidence of a true work of God will be seen and confirmed by the witness of the Spirit and centrality of the Word of God. It is preeminently a spiritual and supernatural work, and only the tools and operations supplied by God can truly build His church.

Drawing on the Inheritance

"Do not give me ready money now; give a cheque book, and let me draw what I like. That is what God does with the believer. He does not immediately transfer his inheritance to him, but lets him draw what he needs out of the riches of His fulness in Christ Jesus.”

- Charles Spurgeon, “The Lord is my Shepherd”

The cheque book of faith « Of First Importance

"Where is the God of Evan Roberts?"

Where is the God of Elijah? Where is the God of Evan Roberts? Where is the true power of God that can sweep over a city and bring backslidden Christians to repentance and hardened sinners to experience the greatest miracle of all—the miracle of new birth?

J. Lee Grady - Fire In My Bones

Grady's article has a good history of the 1904 Welsh Revival and the ministry of Evan Roberts.

Within a year it was estimated that 100,000 people had come to Christ. Hardened men who normally spent their families’ incomes on liquor ran into the churches and repented. Coal miners stopped cursing. Teenagers gathered at train stations and sang hymns or testified publicly of their conversions. Crime stopped.

Wales was transformed.

Can it happen again?

Hat Tip: CHARISMATICA » Looking for Revival: "Where is the God of Evan Roberts?"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Next on "Dancing With the Stars"

According to Ben Witherington, this is

An Unbearable Ministry

This is an old joke, but still a good one!

A Roman Catholic priest, a Pentecostal minister, and a Rabbi all served as chaplains to the students of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. They got together 2-3 times a week for coffee and conversation. One day, one of them said to the other two that preaching and serving the sacraments to human beings wasn't all that difficult. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear!

One thing led to another and the three of them agreed to do an experiment. They would go up in the Smokie mountains, find a bear, and attempt to convert him through preaching or the sacraments. They agreed to get back together seven days later and discuss how it went.

When they assembled a week hence, Father Flannery had his arm in a sling, was on crutches and had various bandages on his hands and legs. He shared his adventure first: "Well I went into the woods and found a bear alright, and when I found him I began to read him the RC Catechism, but that bear wanted nothing to do with that and began to slap me around. So, quickly I grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him, and doggone if he didn't become gentle as a lamb. The bishop will join me next week and we will give him first communion and start the process of confirmation."

The Pentecostal, the Rev. Billy Bob Bible spoke up next. He was in a wheelchair, with his arms and legs in casts, and with an IV drip. In his best fire and brimstone voice, he claimed "Well brothers, you know that we don't believe in sprinklin'. I commenced to reading the Bible to the bear, but the bear wanted nothing to do with that, or me. So I grabbed him before he left and we began to wrassle, and fell down a hill into a creek. Quick-like I jumped up and dunked his hairy soul, and doggone if he didn't become gentle as a lamb in an instant. We spent the rest of the day praisin' Jesus."

The rabbi had been silent all this time, and in fact was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and in traction with all sorts of monitors hooked up to him. He was in bad shape, but was able to look at the other two and say "Looking back on it, I should have started by reciting the ten commandments to him. Circumcision may not have been the best way to start."

Hat Tip: Ben Witherington: An Unbearable Ministry

A Few Study Bibles Coming Out Later This Year - NOT!

In light of the buzz and excitement about the new ESV Study Bible, Michael Spencer, aka Internet Monk, has published a spoof list of upcoming new study Bibles at A Few Study Bibles Coming Out Later This Year. I liked them all, but especially laughed at these two.

The Mark Driscoll R-Rated Study Bible for Dudes. Freak out your reformed Baptist friends with Mark Driscoll’s comedic, rude and radically male centered interpretations of scripture. This is a study Bible that reaches the emerging culture while denouncing the emerging church. A fashion section helps you to see the scriptural mandates for mechanic’s shirts and hemp necklaces. Puzzlingly endorsed by John Piper, an alternative sheet of negative endorsements from various reformed bloggers is available on request. Profanity in red letters. Crude and shocking sexual episodes in blue. Bible doctrine is related to MMA throughout.

The Paula White “What the….” Study Bible. Learn that if you’re an evangelical hottie, you can find just about anything in the Bible. Discover the 25 reasons Matthew 25 is the key to receiving $25,000 to give as a seed in 2025. Special notes include “Divorce? Phhhhht,” “Sounding like T.D. Jakes but looking a lot better,” “Ministering With Your Ex-Husband,” and “Making God Look Good in My Escalades.” Available in charismaniac or evangelical ebonics versions

Cute Michael, cute!

Barack Obama - Former Fetus

Here's Ed Whelen writing Thursday at The Corner on National Review Online on "Former Fetus Barack Obama."

Nearly 48 years ago, a young woman, not yet 18, became pregnant in her freshman year of college. Living in a time and place in which abortion was generally illegal, she proceeded to marry the father of her child and gave birth to a son. Perhaps she would have done so irrespective of the abortion laws at the time, even if, say, she lived in a legal culture that celebrated abortion as a fundamental right. Very possibly not. (I haven’t found any statistics on the percentage of pregnant college freshmen who abort their pregnancies, but indirect indications suggest that it’s very high.)

Barack Obama may actually believe, as he stated yesterday, that Roe v. Wade “was rightly decided.” But it may be very lucky for him, as the son born of that woman, that it hadn’t been decided a dozen or so years earlier.

That Obama may owe his very life to a pre-Roe legal regime that banned abortion is, to be sure, not necessarily a reason that he should favor that regime (though I can’t help noting that Justice Thomas’s critics recklessly accuse him of hypocrisy for opposing racial-preference plans that they say he benefited from). But it ought to lead Obama and others to think more carefully about the valuable role that protective abortion laws play

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Star Trek Pictures!

Have I mentioned lately how much I am looking forward to this movie?

"Penetrate the illusions of the world and, touching eternity, impact them."

The Anchoress is fasting for the country, the election, mostly for God's purposes. She is writing some fascinating and illuminating stuff during this time- check out this excerpt from Presumption, Illusions & Reality.

Grounding myself in prayer, examining every odd yearning (and not just for food) and choosing to surrender that yearning rather than gratify it has had an empowering effect, and a clarifying one.

What I am reminded, repeatedly, is that time is a construct - that everything is happening simultaneously. Right now, I am writing at my computer. Right now, I am voting at my local school. Right now, Christ is dying on a cross. Right now, He is making a covenant and receiving a kiss. Right now, Napoleon is heading to Waterloo. Right now, George Washington is facing defeat for the umpteenth time. Right now, I am being needlessly cruel to someone. Right now I am being born. Right now I am 78 years old and grousing that my kids never visit me. Right now, Obama has won the election. Right now John McCain has won the election.

This is why prayer has power. In the quantum world, where everything is occurring all at once, prayer changes things. Sacrifice changes things. Wisdom knows this - it is why every religious tradition, Eastern or Western, encourages prayer and sacrifice - because this is how you pierce illusions.

Last week Pope Benedict XVI said: ”He who builds only on visible and tangible things like success, career and money builds the house of his life on sand”…money vanishes, it is nothing. All these things that appear to be real are in fact secondary. Only God’s words are a solid reality”.

Yes. Everything is happening, all at once. What appears to be solid and three-dimensional would does not even exist between its busy atoms. That which the world regards as most ephemeral, and least grasp-able, is actually the solid platform upon which all illusions spin.

About a year ago, out of the blue - a friend of mine - a social studies teacher who is politically “interested” but not active, and who does not go to church - said to me: “I get the feeling that George W. Bush is going to be the last American president of “old” America, and Benedict is going to be the last pope of the “old” Catholic church.” She had a sense of things cresting, of a cusp being reached.

Right now, a typesetter is laying down the words Dewey Wins! Right now, Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democrat nominee. Right now, George Washington is refusing a crown. Right now, Barack Obama is training ACORN workers. Right now, Margaret Sanger is preaching eugenics. Right now, a Pole is made Pope. Right now, Nero is watching Rome burn. Right now, Peter, that city’s first Bishop, is being crucified and turned upside down.

Right now, in prayer and in fasting, one may penetrate the illusions of the world and, touching eternity, impact them.

Obama may win this election. Obama may lose this election. McCain may win this election. McCain may lose this election. No matter what happens, we are entering a new era, and I believe everyone knows it. With the prayer and fasting, I am “in training” making myself ready for whatever comes, because whatever comes is going to be very different; it will jar us from all of our complacencies.

So, yes, I feel very peaceful right now, and my prayer and fasting continues. I hope you’ll consider joining me in this training, in whatever measure you may.

So Lord, what measure of training is mine? How do I participate? So me Lord, and I will follow.

Theology for the Rest of Us

Found another interesting blog site, called Eggus. "Eggus means to be brought near. This blog is dedicated to exploring the world from the perspective of one who has been brought near to God through the Lord." They further describe their mission as Theology for the rest of us.
Are you a supra, infra, or just plain ole lapsarian? What’s the ordo salutis? Paedo or credo? Studied your eschatology in light of your soteriology lately? Or maybe you’re just overwhelmed with God’s transcendence? If these terms cause you to scratch your head or reach for “Our Daily Bread”, then don’t despair. Many of you have been told that theology is for the pastor or the seminary professor.

Theology and doctrine is dry. It’s not needed. If that’s the case for you then maybe we, the theology wonks, have let you down. Theology is the study of God, and doctrine is the teaching we glean from studying God’s word. It’s not just for the pastor or seminarian. It’s for all of us; the rest of us poor slobs who don’t know Greek from how to make sense of the US tax code. The purpose of this blog is to take theology and make it accessible to all. That doesn’t mean we’re going to dumb theology down. No way. The study of God is a noble pursuit; the noblest of all pursuits. Theology is to be taken seriously for it yields teachings (doctrines) that reveal God’s very nature. Theology tells about mans sinful condition, the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Theology informs us how to live as Christians and about our future in the eternal state where Christ will rule forever and ever. Theology keeps Christ’s church from errors that many have followed and shipwrecked their faith and even taken others with them. So, as you see, theology isn’t just for the “wonks”, it’s for the rest of us too. And by the way; wonks are welcome on this blog also. One of the most effective methods of learning theology is to listen and ask questions. Read the posts and feel free to interact with the authors. I will not be the only one posting. A select group of theologians will be invited to post on different theological areas. And we don’t drink the Kool-Aide on this blog. I will solicit opinions from authors who share opposing viewpoints than what I personally believe. It’s all good because discussion of opposite views leads to learning, and the goal is not to be more like me but to be more like Christ.

Sounds like one worth watching.

Prayer Request for India and Iraq

From Eric Ortland, via Justin Taylar, a request for prayer for India and Iraq:

I find I far too often tell people I'll pray for them and then forget about it. I'm asking you not to be like me after reading this post. I'm sure some of you have heard about the persecution in India, in the northern province of Orissa - about 50,000 Christians have had to flee their homes under persecution by extreme Hindus. Churches have been burned and Christians have been tortured and martyred for their faith in Jesus. I'm asking everyone who reads this to pray frequently for these Christians, with whom we'll be spending the rest of eternity - and to pray for their persecutors, that, like Paul, they'd see the light.

No corner of the Internet is really private, and one has to be careful about what one says; but the situation in India is no secret, so I think it's OK to talk about it here. The sitaution in Mosul, a city in Northern Iraq across the Euphrates from Ninevah, is no secret either - 1300 Christians have been forced to flee, often entire families, under persecution. Christians have been martyred here as well. See this article:

I got an email through the grapevine from an Iraqi pastor who talked about how families were sleeping in their cars, who had had relatives kidnapped and executed. I don't want to be ashamed before him in Heaven by having to admit that I never prayed for him. Let's not fail to pray for peace in this area, and even more deeply for Jesus to shine his light through his people.

Hat Tip: Between Two Worlds, Ben Witherington and Pure Church

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Offensive, Attractive Cross

“The curious paradox of the atoning death of a bloody Jesus rising above the plane of human history with a mocking crown of thorns is that he is offensive in an attractive way.

It is the utter horror of the cross that cuts through the chatter, noise, and nonsense of our day to rivet our attention, shut our mouths, and compel us to listen to an impassioned dying man who is crying out for the forgiveness of our sins and to ask why he suffered.

Tragically, if we lose the offense of the cross, we also lose the attraction of the cross so that no one is compelled to look at Jesus. Therefore, Jesus does not need a marketing firm or a makeover as much as a prophet to preach the horror of the cross unashamedly.”

—Mark Driscoll, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 33

(HT: Desiring God Blog)
Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Of First Importance

For a daily dose of Grace, the Cross and The Gospel, check out Of First Importance.

The Most Extreme Pro-Abortion Political Candidate in American History

Here's some chilling excerpts from Princeton University professor Robert George on Obama's Abortion Extremism.

“Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.”


“Barack Obama is deeply committed to the belief that members of an entire class of human beings have no rights that others must respect. Across the spectrum of pro-life concerns for the unborn, he would deny these tiny members of the human family the basic protection of the laws. . . What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion.”

“In the end, the efforts of Obama’s apologists to depict their man as the true pro-life candidate that Catholics and Evangelicals may and even should vote for, doesn’t even amount to a nice try. Voting for the most extreme pro-abortion political candidate in American history is not the way to save unborn babies.”

How any Christian could consider voting for this man is utterly beyond me.

Hat Tips: Between Two Worlds
Denny Burke

Election Hi-jinks

Hat Tip:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Being Christ on the Streets

The Anchoress has a moving story up about Catholic Sisters ministering to prostitutes - Being Christ on the Streets

A sister giving a prostitute a cup of tea might be laughable to some - it might seem like putting a bandage on a gaping, mortal wound. But what the cup of tea says is: “you are human, you are valuable to God and to me. You are worth loving.” And it helps restore, in a small but meaningful way, to the prostitute her dignity and humanity.

We cannot change every reality. We cannot make the fact that there will “always” be poor and “always” be exploited people go away, no matter how much we would like to. The world is broken, and as long as some humans are willing to treat other human beings as “things” first and foremost, then prostitution and other forms of exploitation will continue to be part of the world.

Jesus knew this. He did not just show up and clear the streets of the poor, the sick, the lame, the slave, the prostitutes, the soldiers and so forth. If he had, that would have been lovely for a few days, but it would have ultimately changed nothing, because the brokenness would still exist. He healed those who asked - many clearly did not - but also taught how to live in this broken world by being Christ for each other. In the Culture of Life, no one gets thrown away.

How to Use a Study Bible

From Tim Challies' review of the new ESV Study Bible, here is a great summary on the proper use of study Bibles in general. See -The ESV Study Bible - A Review

How to Use a Study Bible

There are some Christians who feel that study Bibles are not ultimately helpful to Christians. After all, we have been given the Holy Spirit who promises to us that He will help us to know and to apply the Scriptures. While I understand these concerns, I feel that study Bibles can be immensely helpful and especially so to those who do not have extensive reference libraries or extensive theological training. However, these Bibles must be used properly. The biblical text must book-end any study of Scripture. The Introduction to the ESV Study Bible says it well. "The best way to use a study Bible, therefore, is always to begin and end with the words of the Bible. We should always begin by reading the Bible's actual words, seeking with our hearts and our minds to understand these words and apply them to our lives. Then, after starting with the words of the Bible itself, we can turn to the study notes and many other study Bible resources for information about the background to the text, for the meaning of puzzling words or phrases, and for connections to other parts of the Bible. Finally, we should return again to the Bible itself, reading it with a new and deeper understanding, asking God to speak through his Word to the situation of our life and to draw us near to himself." We will proceed through this review with the understanding that the notes and maps and articles and cross-references within any study Bible, helpful though they may be, are only supplementary to the words of God.

Pastors and Teachers—Ephesians 4:11

Interesting article and Greek grammer study at Koinonia Blog on one of my pet hermeneutic causes: Does Ephesians 4 teach a five-fold ministry or only four? See Koinonia: Pastors and Teachers—Ephesians 4:11 by Bill Mounce

Paul is discussing the gifts that God gives. In v 11 he says, word for word, “And he gave men the apostles de the prophets de the evangelists de the pastors and teachers. The men … de is the correlative construction “both … and … and” that often does not make it into translations because while it is gentle and smooth in Greek our correlatives are a bit rougher and more intrusive.

The question is whether “pastors and teachers” designate one spiritual gift or two.

One interpretation sees them as one gift and point to the use of the article. It is repeated before all the other gifts, but when it gets to the last two there is only one article that governs both nouns. Grammatically, this signals a change and expects us to see that “pastors and teachers” form a unit that is set off from the preceding series.

There can be no debate on this point; this is just plain Greek grammar. The question is the precise nature of the “unit.”

The use of a single article with multiple plural nouns indicates a single unit, but it does not necessarily mean the two nouns are identical. This same construction occurs earlier in 2:20 and joins “apostles” and “prophets,” but these are not identical gifts

Paul is discussing the gifts that God gives. In v 11 he says, word for word, “And he gave men the apostles de the prophets de the evangelists de the pastors and teachers. The men … de is the correlative construction “both … and … and” that often does not make it into translations because while it is gentle and smooth in Greek our correlatives are a bit rougher and more intrusive.

The question is whether “pastors and teachers” designate one spiritual gift or two.

One interpretation sees them as one gift and point to the use of the article. It is repeated before all the other gifts, but when it gets to the last two there is only one article that governs both nouns. Grammatically, this signals a change and expects us to see that “pastors and teachers” form a unit that is set off from the preceding series.

There can be no debate on this point; this is just plain Greek grammar. The question is the precise nature of the “unit.”

The use of a single article with multiple plural nouns indicates a single unit, but it does not necessarily mean the two nouns are identical. This same construction occurs earlier in 2:20 and joins “apostles” and “prophets,” but these are not identical gifts.

Hoehner suggests that the distinction is that the prior gifts are expressed in an itinerate ministry and the later two are gifts for a local ministry. Harold’s discussion of this is excellent and worth reading (Ephesians. An Exegetical Commentary published by Baker).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Prom Queen of Love

Did you see the story about the high school class that elected their classmate with down's syndrome as prom queen? Get ready to cry. You can read about it here:

Prom Queen of Love | The Anchoress
Beautiful: The Thinklings

A Confession to Emulate

Read this » Blog Archive » Confession. Read every word of it.

Every word of the IMonk's personal confession applies to me also. I wholeheartedly agree.

We Need Both!

Yesterday I quoted some posts about the danger of spiritual dryness arising from Theology that is separated from spiritual experience. You know, it goes both ways. Spiritual experience separated from a firm and accurate grasp of the great truths of the Bible is also a recipe for spiritual disaster and open to error and spiritual danger.

We see the danger of both extremes all around us. I remember sitting under a fantastic teaching by Dr. R.C Sproul at a Presbyterian Church on the Doctrine of God's Aseity (His self existence) from the Exodus passage where Moses is told God is I AM. I was so fired up after that deep message that I wanted to run the pews when he was done. Instead, I had to endure "turn to Hymn number 132" followed by a formal and non-emotional rendition of a hymn. On the other hand I recently heard a "message" by a teacher in the prophetic movement that consisted entirely of the telling of personal dreams, vision and experiences with God without a single Bible verse or even a mention of the great truths of the Gospel. And this poor pathetic excuse for a Christian sermon came immediately after a stirring time of musical worship in which people seemed to connect to the Lord and experience His presence. How about combining that worship time with the Sproul teaching time? I want both doctrine and experience! I want teaching and worship!

Why do churches an individual believers seem so prone to fall into the ditches on either side of the straight and narrow road? Why do we seem to always separate things that God meant to be kept together? Why can't we believe in and practice spiritual gifts and also teach hermeneutics and homiletics? Why can't we have churches with both Theological teaching and sound Bible exposition combined with passionate worship and the experience of God's presence?

What God has joined together men should not put asunder.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Theology and Spiritual Dryness

Fitting in so well with the words of J.I. Packer quoted below, are these thoughts by Clinton Arnold at Koinonia Blog this past week - Koinonia: Spiritual Dryness and the Head-Heart Disconnect. The longest journey for me is the 18 inch one from head to heart.

... the Apostle Paul... seemed to be very aware that a purely cognitive study of the Bible and theology was inadequate to promote spiritual growth. There is a spiritual dynamic that needs to be taken into consideration both by students and teachers.

At the outset of a letter he wrote that is extraordinarily rich in theology, Paul addresses the potential head-heart disconnect that could prevent the theology he proclaims from penetrating deeply into the souls of the believers he addresses. He does so with prayer. He reports to the Ephesians that he is regularly praying for them—not just for their felt needs and present crises, but for something powerful to happen as they meditated on the incredible truths about God and his plan of salvation. He assures them that,

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (NIV)

Paul is well aware of the fact that the Spirit needs to take the truths about God and his ways and impress them onto the hearts of his people. He echoes the words of Isaiah 11:2 in his prayer that speaks of the ministry of the Spirit in the life of the Messiah (“the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and understanding”) and applies it to the new covenant ministry of the Spirit in all believers. Paul knows that all of the riches of the theology that he shares in Ephesians 1-3 will not have its intended impact unless the Spirit of God opens the eyes of their hearts to receive it and comprehend its relevance to their lives.

The Purpose of Theology

“Knowledge puffs up. . . . The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Cor 8:1–2).

To be preoccupied with getting Theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it. . . . There can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it, if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard. In this way, doctrinal study really can become a danger to spiritual life, and we today today, no less than the Corinthians of old, need to be on guard here.

But, says someone, is it not a fact that a love for God’s revealed truth, and a desire to know as much of it as one can, are natural to every person who has been born again? Look at psalm 119: “teach me your decrees”; “open my eyes that I may see wonderful things from your law!”; “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”; “give me discernment that I may understand your statutes” (vv. 12, 18, 97, 103, 125). Do not all cildren of God long, with the psalmist, to know just as much about our heavenly father as we can learn? Is not, indeed, the fact that we have received a love for his truth in this way proof that we have been born again? (See 2 Thess 2:10.) And is it not right that we should satisfy this God-given desire to the full?

Yes, of course it is. But if you look back to Psalm 119 again, you will see that the psalmist’s concern to get knowledge about God was not a theoretical but a practical concern. His supreme desire was to know and enjoy God himself, and he valued knowledge about God simply as a means to this end. He wanted to understand God’s truth in order that his heart might respond to it and his life be conformed to it. Observe the emphasis of the opening verses: “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. . . . Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!“ (vv. 1–2, 5).

The psalmist was interested in truth and orthodoxy, in biblical teaching and theology, not as ends in themselves, but as means to the further ends of life and godliness. His ultimate concern was with knowledge and service of the great God whose truth he sought to understand.

And this must be our attitude too, our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our aquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use that we must put it.

—J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 22–23.

Hat Tip: The Purpose of Theology « Already Not Yet

(Passages like this are the reason I so highly recommend this book!)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

South Bay Vineyard - A Month of Progress

Last month the new church plant in SanDiego, CA, led by my friends the Lancasters and the Selfs had their first service. South Bay Vineyard is up and running, and doing fine. They started with 47 people and have had visitors every week since. Here's what their newsletter had to say:

With the launch behind us we have begun the work of building a community of believers that impact the larger community around them.

We are building on the three values of Service, Acceptance and Power. It is becoming more evident every week that these reflect the basic needs of this culture.

There is so much need and people are willing and ready to serve others and help meet those needs if you just point them to something concrete to do. People want to make a difference but they aren't sure how... and they usually want to do it in the context of community... with like-minded friends. So we serve through the local food bank and other practical activities that impact people.

And I'm finding that the most basic desire is to be accepted and loved for who you are. More and more I see the young people here open up to the simplest act of love. I continue to be amazed at this 'fatherless' generation and how much they desire to simply be accepted and to be embraced.

And then there is the desire to see God move in supernatural power. Our heart cries out for it... we want to believe that He has the power to change lives... our life... but our faith is weak because we haven't seen it. But when somebody experiences God in a supernatural way they are different... their faith is increased... and they begin to think, "maybe there is hope for me."

That hope is our goal... God is for us and I believe that San Diego is ready to believe it.